Monday, October 16, 2017

Video: Take a Stunning Journey Through the Wild Ontario Backcountry

Canada is filled with spectacular wilderness settings and you'll get a chance to experience several of them in this wonderful video. It takes us into the backcountry in Ontario, where canoeing, camping, and backpacking are the best ways to explore. Along the way, we'll spot amazing wildlife, wonderful landscapes, and much more. If you're in need of an escape to someplace wild and untamed today, this should do the trick.

Video: A POV Mountain Bike Ride Through South Tyrol

Italy's South Tyrol region is well known for being one of the more spectacular mountain settings in all of Europe, after all this is the home of Reinhold Messner. In this video, we jump on a mountain bike with pro rider Tom Oehler, who takes us for a spin through this spectacular setting. Using his trusty GoPro camera, it is almost like we're riding along with him. Almost.

Gear Closet: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Camper SV Sleeping Pad Review

Everyone knows that a good sleeping bag is key to getting a good night's rest in the backcountry, but not everyone acknowledges the role that a sleeping pad plays as well. Without a proper sleeping pad in your arsenal of gear, you end up camped on the rough ground, which can be extremely uncomfortable in the best of conditions but downright awful when it is wet and cold. Thankfully, there are plenty of great options to choose from when it comes to selecting a sleeping pad to take with you on your adventures and recently I've had the chance to test out the NeoAir Camper SV from Therm-a-Rest, which is a comfortable option for use on the trail.

Now, before we delve too deeply into the Camper SV, lets get one thing out of the way immediately. This sleeping pad is not for the light and fast crowd. If you're someone who counts every ounce, you'll be better suited using one of Therm-a-Rest's ultralight options instead. This model tips the scales at a beefy 2 pounds, 5 ounces, making it a hefty inclusion in your pack.

On the other hand, the Camper SV delivers plenty of comfort and durability, which makes it a great choice for anyone who favors a bit of luxury over going as light as possible. The pad doesn't pack down as small as others that I've used, but it makes up for it in providing plenty of support and warmth. Therm-a-Rest says that it has an R-value of 2.2, which puts it squarely in the three-season camping area in terms of performance.

The NeoAir Camper has been in the Therm-a-Rest line-up for awhile, but the SV adds the company's Speed Valve technology to the mix. This allows campers to inflate the pad much more efficiently and quickly using the Bernoulli effect. To do this, you simply blow air into a large opening located at the top end of the pad and it begins to inflate quickly and efficiently. At least in theory anyway. It took me some practice to get the process ironed out, and I'd recommend inflating the Camper SV a few times using the standard air valves first. This seems to help iron out some of the stiffness in the pad when its new, making it easy to inflate using the Speed Valve.

Nat Geo Presents the Creepiest Adventures on Earth

With October now more than half over, we're starting to inch closer to Halloween, a holiday that always evokes images of ghosts, goblins, and any number of other terrifying creatures. To help get us in the mood, National Geographic has shared a list of the creepiest adventures on Earth, taking us to remote places where strange things just might go bump in the night.

The list is an extensive one, providing readers with 29 unique and scary adventures. Amongst the options that Nat Geo offers are exploring limestone caverns in Mexico that are filled with bats, visiting a national park in Bolivia that is overrun with termites, and visiting a series of caves that are filled with bones in Mali. Other eerie destinations include a hike through Germany's Reinhardswald Mountains where many ancient fairy tales are believed to have taken place and exploring Joshua Tree National Park after dark.

As you would expect from National Geographic, each of the items on the list includes a great photo to help set the stage. Unfortunately, not all of the entires on this slideshow do a great job of telling you exactly why this place is creepy enough to deserve a mention here. This seems to be a reoccurring theme on the Nat Geo website in recent months, with articles that lure you in with nice images an intriguing headlines, but don't always deliver the goods in terms of substance. Still, with a little research, it becomes clear why many of the entities on the "creepy list" belong there.

Check out the entire story here.

All-Female Rowing Team Set to Take on the Atlantic in 2018

A team of female rowers is gearing up to take on a big challenge in 2018 as they not only set out to cross the Atlantic but also explore the impact of plastic pollution on our planet's oceans. The ladies will take part in the Talisker Whiskey Challenge, which is set to begin late next year.

The team of rowers consists of three women (Jess, Caroline, and Suze) who live in London and have been busy training for this endeavor for weeks. The trio call their expedition the Status Row, and while they are taking part in a race across the Atlantic, their ambitions are much higher than simply going from the Canary Islands off the coast of Spain to Antigua in the Caribbean, covering some 3000 miles (4825 km) in the process.

According to the Status Row website, more than 8 million tons of plastic goes into the ocean every year. That equates to 6340 plastic bottles each and ever second. Those plastics are often eaten by fish, which are also making their way back into our diet as well. It is a horrible situation that is not only killing off marine life at an alarming rate, but is having an impact on the foot supply for millions of people around the globe too.

To help fight this problem the three ladies are hoping to raise £100,000 ($131,300) for the Marine Conservation Society, a nonprofit in the U.K. that is leading the charge to protect the oceans, our shores, and the wildlife that lives in from this thread. The message is a simple one, refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle.

You can find out more about their plans on the Status Row website, where you'll also find a countdown clock to the start of the race, as well as a disturbing ticker that shows the amount of plastic dumped into the ocean since you first started viewing the page. It is a sobering reminder that this is a significant threat to our planet and we need to act soon to protect our oceans.

Find out more here.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Video: Highlining the Total Solar Eclipse

It has been nearly two months since the total solar eclipse hit North America, and we're still receiving some impressive videos and photos from that day. This one follows Alex Mason, one of the best slackliners in the world, as he travels to Jackson Hole to walk an epic line during the totality of the eclipse. The video serves not only to show off this event, but as a profile of Mason himself, who at the age of 20 has already won a world championship for his sport.

Video: Moose vs. Wolf in the Backcountry of Ontario, Canada

This video was captured purely by chance when a filmmaker took his drone out to shoot some aerial   footage of the backcountry in Ontario, Canada. When he came across a lone moose wading in a river, he decided to include her in the video. But not long after that, a wolf appeared on the scene and the two creatures faced off in a showdown that is likely all too common in the wild. The result is a fascinating to watch.

Video: Meet Polar Explorer Vincent Colliard and the IceLegacy Project

Our planet is undergoing some serious changes at the moment in regards to climate. Whether or not man is having an impact on that is subject to debate depending on who you speak with. To help understand that impact further, French polar explorer Vincent Colliard had joined forces with Norwegian legend Børge Ousland to form the IceLegacy Project. The duo intend to ski across 20 largest glaciers in the world to take samples of the ice and record how far those glaciers have retreated. Their efforts are not just about helping us understand the Earth a bit better, but are also a tremendous adventure too. In this video, we get to know Colliard a bit better and see him in action ni the field as he skis, treks, and packrafts to remote regions of the world.

Impact Initiative: Vincent Colliard from Mountain Hardwear on Vimeo.

Did an Unusually Warm Summer Impact the Historic Race to the South Pole?

New research published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society reveals that an unusually warm summer in the Antarctic back in 1911-1912 may have played a major role in deciding the fate of two teams of explorers. The study took a look at historic records for weather in the Antarctic starting in 1905 and moving forward to the present, with researchers considering the impact of that weather on expeditions to the Antarctic for the first time.

In 1911, Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen was locked in a fierce battle with his British rival Robert Falcon Scott to see who would become the first person to reach the South Pole, a place at that time that has remained far out of reach. Ultimately, Amundsen would win that race, arriving at 90ºS on December 14. Scott would also reach the Pole, but he didn't arrive until 34 days later.

But after their respective dashes to the Pole, the story takes a very different term for these two explorers. Amundsen returned to the coast, boarded his waiting ship, and sailed back to Europe a hero. Meanwhile, the weather took a turn for the worse and Scott and his men ended up perishing on their march back to the Antarctic coast.

At the turn of the 20th century, it was unusual for high pressure weather fronts to reach the Antarctic. Instead, low pressure systems were common, creating westerly winds that keep the continent cooler. As the ozone layer above Antarctica has thinned in recent years, those fronts have become even more common. But back in 1911, a high pressure system moved onto the continent, creating ideal conditions for both Amundsen and Scott. This was the weather window they needed to safely reach the South Pole at long last.

Unfortunately, the weather pattern didn't last, but because he had a head start, Amundsen was able to get to the Pole and back before the conditions on the frozen continent deteriorated completely. Scott wasn't so lucky, and as a result he and his men were left stranded as the Antarctic cold and storms returned with a fury.

Obviously there are a lot of other variables that played a role in these fateful expeditions. Amundsen and Scott were two very different men with very different leadership roles. But, it seems that the weather was a big part of both the success and failure of the two expeditions as well.

Read more about this topic here.

Are You Ready to Climb Everest?

By virtue of being the highest mountain on the planet, Everest has always been viewed by many climbers as the pinnacle of mountaineering. Over the past 20 years, commercialization of the mountain has made it more accessible than ever before, to the point that hundreds make the attempt each year from both the North and South. But not all of those climbers are truly prepared for what they'll face once they get to Nepal or Tibet.

So how do you know if you're ready for Everest? That's the exact question posed by an article by Bill Allen at mountaintrip.com. Mountain Trip is one of those companies that leads teams to Everest each year, and Allen has himself summited the mountain on three separate occasions. In the blog post, he not only takes a look at the requirements a perspective climber should have to take on the world's tallest peak, but blows some holes in the myths that surround such an expedition too.

In terms of experience, Allen says that they expect their clients to have climbed both Aconcagua and Denali at the bare minimum. In other words, 8000-meter experience isn't necessarily a necessity, but it is helpful. He also talks about the level of fitness requires for the climb, as well as whether or not an expedition to Everest is even right for certain individual people. As he notes, it is a long climb that lasts nearly two months. That's a long time to be away from home and not everyone adapts to that situation well.

Apparently this article is the first of several that will be written to help prepare those considering an attempt on Everest. At the end of the post Bill indicates that his next story will help climbers decide which route they should take. He'll also look at the dynamic of different sized teams, whether or not to climb with western guides or Nepali guides, and more.

You can read his current article here and we'll keep an eye out for others down the line.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Video: Curious Arctic Foxes Investigate Photographer's Camera

What do you get when you set a motion camera out in the wilderness with a pack of wild arctic foxes nearby? A video like the one below which shows the curious little creatures showing no fear of the camera and getting right up in front of the lens. The level of cuteness in this video is almost too much to take. Luckily its under two minutes in length.

Video: Zac and Dylan Efron in Glacier National Park

Awhile back, we shared the very funny clip of Zan Efron, and his brother Dylan, applying to be gear testers for Columbia Sportswear. That clip ended with the two siblings setting out for Glacier National Park to try out their new equipment. Now, we have the follow-up video of their adventure in the park, which looks like it was a great testing ground for the latest Columbia gear. While not quite as hilarious at their first video, it is still charming and amusing to watch. It is also clear the brothers had a genuinely great time making the promo spots and putting all of that stuff to good use in the wilderness. Watching this makes me want to load up a Transit van and head to Glacier myself.

The Himalayan Database Will Soon be Available for Free

When it comes to climbing the big mountains in Nepal – and lesser extent Tibet – The Himalayan Database is the definitive record for everything has been accomplished there over the past 50 years. The information contained in the database has been meticulously compiled by Ms. Elizabeth Hawley for five decades, and soon all of those records will be available to the general public online for free.

In an announcement posted to The Himalayan Database website reads as follows:
"Version 2 of the Himalayan Database will be released to the general public at no charge via download from this site in early November 2017 after the Spring 2017 update to the database is completed. Owners of the current version will need to download and upgrade to the new version in order to gain access to future updates and changes."
The data covers all expeditions to the Himalaya starting in 1905 and running through 2003. It covers more than 340 different mountains across Nepal, and along the border with Tibet. According to the database website "the database is searchable by peak, climber, expedition, nationality, season, mortality rates and causes and more."

Updated data from 2004 through 2016 is available via the Himalayan Database website, with the 2017 data to be compiled and added later. The combined information from the downloadable database and the online resource, marks the most comprehensive collection of information on mountaineering expeditions ever assembled.

Over the past few years, Ms. Hawley has eased into retirement, after maintaining the database on her own for decades. Much of her work has been taken up by German climber and journalist Billi Bierling, who along with a few other dedicated people. have been collecting and compiling the data.

Now, this resource will become available to anyone who wants to access it and search its information. For those of us who do regular reporting on the Nepal and the expeditions that visit there, it is a welcome addition to help us with that coverage. But, beyond that, it should prove very interesting for anyone who follows the mountaineering scene closely.

Watch himalayandatabase.com for an update soon.

A Giant Hole Has Opened in the Antarctic Ice and Scientists Aren't Sure Why

We're now just a few weeks away from the start of the Antarctic ski season, and even now there are explorers putting the finishing touches on their plans to travel on foot to the South Pole. As the austral summer returns to the frozen continent, we're now taking stock of what is happening in that part of the world, and scientists of discovered something fascinating, perplexing, and possibly worrisome all at the same time.
Using satellite imagery, researchers have identified a large hole in the ice on the Antarctic continent. Of course, holes develop in the ice all of the time. Scientists even have a name for them, calling them polynyas. But what makes this one different from most is that it is incredibly large and it is located miles from the place where Antarctica meets the ocean, which is typically where these phenomenon form.

In this case, the polynya is roughly the size of Lake Superior and is found in the heart of the Weddell Sea to the east of the Antarctic Peninsula. This particular hole has been spotted once before way back in the 1970's when the first satellites began photographing the continent. It is believed that in this case, the polynya was created when warm water in the Southern Ocean rose to the surface, pushing through the cold freshwater that sits on top. That warm water then acted as a vent, heating up the ice and causing it to melt rapidly. So rapidly in fact that it was able to create the hole even during the dead of winter.

The scientists studying the Weddell Polynya as it is now called have described it as a natural variable that has proven that their climate models are actually providing an accurate depiction of what is happening to our planet. Originally researchers thought that the hole couldn't form again as climate change increased precipitation in the region. But newer models did predict that it would reoccur as conditions shifted. The fact that it has happened again is demonstrating that current climate models for the Antarctic are on track. Even though this appears to be a natural phenomenon, it is still falling into line with the shifting climate patterns across the world.

This is just another strange occurrence in the Antarctic along with the large chunks of ice that we've been seeing break off over the past few months. Whether this is all a natural occurrence or the result of man's impact on the planet, it doesn't really matter at this point. The Antarctic has long been viewed as the canary in the coal mine when it came to climate change, and this canary is in dire straits.

Himalaya Fall 2017: Details on First Ascent of Burke Khang and Elsewhere

The news from the Himalaya keeps streaming in, even as the season chugs along at a bit slower pace. With the major commercial teams now gone for the year, the big mountains in Nepal are now seeing smaller teams achieving impressive summits. And while things have definitely quieted off, there is still plenty yet to come.

Yesterday we received more details on the recent first ascent of Nagpai Gosum, which had been the fourth highest unclimbed peak in the world. Today, we have more information on a pair of other first ascents, including Burke Khang, which we reported had been climbed last week for the very first time, albeit without its namesake – Bill Burke – reaching the top. Today, we have some more details on that ascent courtesy of The Himalayan Times.

Four members of a climbing team that was organized and supported by Asian Trekking, reached the summit on Thursday, October 5. That group consisted of Irish mountaineer Noel Hanna, along with Naga Dorje Sherpa, Pemba Tshering Sherpa and Samden Bhote.

Burke himself was part of the expedition but was unable to go up to the summit, instead electing to stay in Camp 1 while his teammates continued to the top of the 6942 meter (22,775 ft) peak. This was his fourth time on the mountain, having been turned back in the fall of 2015 and 2016, as well as the spring of this year, due to bad weather and heavy snow. The mountain was given its name back in 2014 to honor Burke's efforts to promote tourism in Nepal.

Meanwhile, three Georgian climbers have put up the first ascent of Larkya Lha Main Peak. Archil Badriashvili, Giorgi Tepnadze, and Bakar Gelashvili reached the summit of the 6425 meter (21,079 ft) mountain at 10:12 AM local time on September 27, having climbed the South East Wall, which is reportedly a very long, icy, and technical route.

A few years back, the Nepali government made the description to open more than a hundred new mountains to climber with the hope that it would draw some away from the more overcrowded peaks like Everest. While those efforts don't seem to have impacted the more popular 8000-meter mountains – Manaslu was incredibly crowded this fall – it does seem to have had the intended effect of luring more alpinists looking to claim a first ascent. Most of these mountains are well above 6000 and 7000 meters, so there are great challenges to be had. The first ascents we've seen over the past week or so are evident of that.

Congratulations to everyone on reaching a point on the Earth where no other human has ever stood.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Video: Searching for the Fountain of Youth

At some point, every outdoor athlete begins to feel the effects of time on their bodies. We don't recover as quickly, injuries are more common, and the speed and agility of youth begin to wane. But, that doesn't mean we have to give up what we love, just approach it in a different way. In this video, pro skier Mike Douglas makes the journey to Japan to explore options for helping him staying younger and more vital. He discovers plenty of options, including imported diet and exercise routines. But, best of all, he gets some advice from Yuichiro Miura, the man who climbed Everest at the age of 80.

Video: The Moon's Shadow During a Solar Eclipse

What does the moon's shadow look like from 100,000 feet up during a solar eclipse? That's exactly what you'll find out in this short video. Shot back on August 21 when the total solar eclipse made its way across North America, this video was captured when a group of students sent weather balloons up into the stratosphere with GoPro cameras attached. As you'll see, the shadow of the moon makes its way across the surface, covering parts of Wyoming and Nebraska as it goes. All in all, this is a very impressive clip, not only for what we get to witness but the technical challenges that had to be overcome to get it.

Moon's Shadow During Solar Eclipse from GINGERKIDDFILMS on Vimeo.

Gear Closet: Thorlos Outdoor Athletic Socks Review

When it comes to keeping our feet happy on the trail, we always seem to focus heavily on the shoes or boots that we wear. Obviously the footwear the we take with us on an adventure is incredibly important, and the cornerstone for keeping our feet comfortable and protected. But, often times we overlook the socks we use, electing to just grab what ever is handy in the drawer. It turns out, having the right pair of socks plays a vital role in the health of our feet too.

Over the past couple of months I've been testing a new line of socks from Thorlos. These socks fall under the Adventure Series category for the company, and include options for hiking, backpacking, travel, and more intense activities like trail running. Made from a proprietary blend of materials, these socks are designed for comfort and performance, and after using them in a wide variety of activities, I can safely say the are now the socks I grab first when setting out on an active adventure.

As an outdoor gear reviewer, talking about socks isn't the sexiest of topics. Still, it is a very important one, having a deeper impact that most of us realize. With the in mind, let's take a look at the different models that Thorlos offers.

Outdoor Athlete ($16.99/Pair)
This is the sock that is directly aimed at trail runners, endurance athletes, obstacle course racers, or anyone who is looking to go fast on the trail. They feature a quarter-length cut that comes up to the ankle, and have an extra bit of reinforcement around the cuff to help keep dirt and debris out. Often times when we develop blisters or hotspots, it is because grit or small rocks have found their way inside our socks, rubbing the skin to irritation. But, these socks help to prevent that from happening, allowing athletes to simply forget about those issues altogether.

The Outdoor Athlete sock also features a design that is meant to provide support to the foot that can help it avoid issues like plantar fasciitis. The shape is also meant to cut down on fatigue and provide more energy return too. I'm not sure about the science of sock design, but I do know that they are very comfortable on my feet, feel great while I'm running, and have helped me to avoid undue wear and tear. I run as much as 40-45 miles per week, and these socks have performed the most consistently through a variety of conditions, ranging from cool and rainy, to hot and humid. So much so, that I actually lament the days that they are in the wash and I have to use something else.

ExWeb Interviews K2 Summiteer Vanessa O'Brien

It looks like ExWeb is back up and running, at least in some capacity. The site, which had gone dark pending a sale to a new owner, has had a few updates posted in recent days, including an exclusive two part interview with Vanessa O'Brien, who summited K2 this past July. By virtue of her dual citizenship, she became the first American and British woman to climb that mountain, which still ranks amongst the hardest climbs in the world.

In the interview, Vanessa talks about the difficulties she faced on the climb, including a tough 16-hour summit push. This was her third attempt on the mountain, and she touches on the frustration and challenges of coming back to a place that has provided so much difficulty in the past too. She also speaks at length about her role as the leader of the team, often finding herself playing "good cop" and "bad cop" as needed.

Other topics of discussion include what it was like to be in K2 Base Camp this year, why other teams didn't find the same success that her's did, and how reaching the top has impacted her after the expedition ended. Vanessa shares what it was like to 'pass through hell to reach heaven," an indication of just how difficult the climb was, but the relief that was felt when they actually made it to the top.

For some fantastic insights into what it is like to climb the "Savage Mountain," you can read part 1 and part 2 of the interview for yourself. For anyone interested in big climbs in the Karakoram, Vanessa has some fascinating insights and information to share.

Himalaya Fall 2017: More Details on First Ascent of Nagpai Gosum,More Summits on Dhaulagiri

The fall climbing season in Nepal continues unabated with more updates from the Himalaya. While there is no new news from Lhotse, there is plenty of other things to talk about from the big mountains.

We'll start with an update on German climber Kobusch Jost summit of Nagpai Gosum, which we first mentioned on Monday. At that time there were few details available, other than that the 25-year old alpinist had managed to summit the previous unclimbed peak, which is 7296 meters (23,397 ft) in altitude. Before Jost topped out last week, it was the fourth highest unclimbed mountain in the world.

The Himalayan Times has shared more information about the expedition, which began way back on August 14 when Jost set out from Lukla with two teammates – fellow German Schardt Raphael Rene and a Sherpa support person. The trio went to Nagpai Gosum and set up camp there, then proceeded to acclimatize over the following weeks. When it came time to make their summit push, neither Rene or the Sherpa were able to climb higher than C2, so Jost set out on a solo attempt. He reached the top at 10:25 AM local time on October 3.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Video: Slackliner Sets New World Record Free Soloing 100 Meter Rope

If you have a preexisting heart condition, you may want to ski this video, as you're likely to develop one after watching it. It features Germany slackliner Friedi Kühne as he free solos a 100 meter long rope high above Hunlen Falls in British Columbia, Canada. As with rock climbing, free soloing means he isn't using any safety equipment to walk across the line. Crazy stuff that requires nerves of steel for sure.

Video: How to Choose a Kayak

So you've done some paddling, figured out how to maneuver your boat, and now feel like you're ready to buy a kayak of your own. But which one should you go with? The team at REI is here to help, providing this video with all kinds of helpful hints to help you pick out your first kayak. Obviously the kind of water you'll be paddling on plays a major role, but there are some other factors to consider too. Find out more in the clip below.

Gear Closet: Energizer PowerKeep 36 Solar Charger and Battery Pack Review

Over the past few years we've seen solar charging become more of an option for our backcountry needs. This is due in part to the fact that solar panels continue to get more efficient and lightweight all of the time, making them more viable options for keeping small devices like a smartphone or a camera charged while living off the grid. At this point, there are literally dozens of options available for travelers and backpackers looking to stay powered up while on the go, making it a challenge to sift through which ones are actually useful and which ones are actually just dead weight.

The latest company to throw its hat into the solar-charging ring is Energizer, which has just launched its own line of solar devices that include portable chargers as well as backpacks with solar panels built in. Recently, I've been testing the new PowerKeep 36, which is an all-in-one solution for those who need to keep small electronics functioning while traveling off the grid.

The PowerKeep 36 includes pretty much everything you need to start using solar energy to power your gadgets. It includes a four-panel, fold-out solar panel capable of generating up to 5 watts of power and direct 1.2 amps to its built-in USB port. The kit also includes a 10,000 mAh battery pack for storing the power collected by the panel and saving it for when you want to recharge the batteries on your mobile device. An included standard USB cable rounds out the package.

The solar panel itself is surprisingly lightweight (10.3 ounces/293g), thanks in part to the flexible materials that is constructed out of. This makes it easy to slip into a pack and take with you just about anywhere, and since it doesn't use a glass-backed panel, you don't have to be especially careful with it. When folded down, it has a small footprint as well, but expands out nicely when its time to place it into the sun.

Long-Distance Paddler Canoeing Across Canada for Third Time

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of Canada, a long-distance paddler is making the epic 4750-mile (7644 km) journey cross-country by canoe. Navigating remote rivers and lakes, while portaging around obstacles, over roads, and between bodies of water, Mike Ranta is now seven months into the journey, which is has undertaken for the third time.

According to Men's Journal, his particular journey began back on April 1 at Bella Coola, British Columbia. Ranta, along with a photographer by the name of David Jackson, set out together by first hauling their boats 625 miles (1005 km) by cart into the Rocky Mountains, where they then made their first put-in at Bow River in Calgary. Since that time, they've spent 130 days on the water, stopping in towns to replenish their supplies along the way.

Currently, Ranta and Jackson are making their way across Ontario, but the goal is to reach Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia by November 1. Looking at their tracking page, it seems like they have an awfully long way to go before the get to that point however, and October is already slipping away.

As mentioned, this is Ranta's third paddling expedition across his home country. In the past, he's gone solo on those expeditions, but this time out Jackson wanted to tag along in order to document the journey using his cameras. The first crossing occurred back in 2014, but Ranta wasn't content to stay at home for very long, and repeated the journey in 2016, completing the trans-Canadian paddle in 200 days. His dog Spitzii accompanies him on these trips.

So why does he keep crossing Canada in a canoe? Ranta tells Men's Journal “I just love to paddle,” which is a good enough reason for me.

You can read more about Mike and his expeditions on his official website, where you'll also be able to follow along with his progress on this particular trip. He's also posting updates to Facebook at Twitter too.

Norwegian Explorer Fridtjof Nansen Honored with a Google Doogle

If you've got Google set as your browser's homepage as I do, you may have been surprised to find a new Doodle in place today when you opened the page. The Internet search giant posts these little works of art with increasing frequency these days, but they are often used to turn the spotlight on lesser known historical figures and events. That just happens to be the case today, as the subject of the Doodle is none other than Fridtof Nansen, a Norwegian explorer who became an activist for refugees later in life.

Amongst Nansen's long list of accomplishments is the first ski expedition across Greenland's remote interior in 1888. He also famously led an expedition to reach the North Pole aboard his ship the Fram, from 1893-1896, and although that journey ultimately wasn't successful the team set a record for the furthest anyone had traveled north by reaching a latitude of 86°14′.

Following that epic adventure, Nansen retired from exploration, but was a major influence on all who followed in his footsteps. He had set the logistical path for exploration in the Arctic, and his methods of transportation, use of gear and supplies, and techniques became the blueprint for others to follow, not only in the Arctic but the Antarctic as well.

Later, Nansen would go on to study zoology and earn himself a doctorate as he studied the nervous system of sea creatures. But, perhaps his biggest accomplishment came in the wake of WWI, when he became the Commissioner of Refugees for the League of Nations. While manning that post, he helped thousands of people who had been displaced by the war find new homes, earning the Noble Peace Prize for his efforts in 1922. To help with those efforts he created what became known as the "Nansen Passport," which was recognized by more than 50 countries, allowing refugees to move about more easily in their effort to find a place to settle.

Today is the 156 anniversary of Nansen's birthday, hence the reason Google is honoring him with a Doodle. Considering everything he accomplished in his lifetime, it is great to see him receive this honor. In some ways, he is a forgotten explorer with men like Amundsen, Shackleton, and Scott earning more notoriety. But without Nansen, those men may not have gotten very far at all.